Friday 8th January light S wind Very sunny, warm, 9C
Chris Craig and I stand on their patio as I prepare to leave and a marsh tit comes down to their peanut feeder; first of the year. After the big push up onto The Mendips, another bird is soon added when I see three stonechats before plunging down through Cheddar Gorge.
On flatter ground with drains and dykes two green sandpipers fly over me and a completely white pheasant was alone in a muddy field. This is the only pheasant I have seen since leaving Worcestershire.
I reach the spot where a cattle egret has been reported and there are indeed a herd of a dozen large cows. There isn't a cattle egret with them though, just four little egrets. I cycle further down the narrow country lane and a very close buzzard poses on a dead tree stump.
I return to the cows and wait. Lunch consists of two three day old doughnuts and some orange squash. Live it up I do.
After waiting about forty-five minutes the cattle egret flies over and lands in a field away from the cows beside a small ditch. It just sits there and preens.
To Shapwick/Ham Wall RSPB reserves next to meet Pete Dommett, a freelance writer for a photo shoot. Pete has written an article about Green Birding for youngsters to go into the Wildlife Trust magazine, Watch and wants to include a short piece about my exploits.
If you want to know more about Pete or commission him then email him at :-
Pete is friendly companion for the afternoon and is also into nature and so we walk down to try and see the dusky warbler, seemingly my bogey bird, which has been in bushes beside the path through the extensive RSPB reserve.
Marsh harriers are making the ducks nervous as we negotiate the mud. Reaching the dusky warbler area we meet a couple who I last saw at Mid Yell, Shetland last year. They have just seen the rare bird and confidence is high.The weather is lovely and so warm. There is even a hawthorn bush with blossom and leaves. Is that in for a shock when winter arrives, if it ever does?
Two hours later confidence has dissipated. No dusky. Pete decides to take a photograph of me and a chiff chaff lands on a twig beside his head.
Back at the car park, made larger last year due to the large number of visitors that come here at this time of year to see what I would imagine is the largest starling murmuration and roost in Britain, Pete and I continue past quite a number of people gathered along the long path through Shapwick Heath. Masses of starlings go overhead, tens of thousands of them. The sunset on this beautiful warm, windless day is quite lovely with flock after flock of the fascinating birds going past.
I go to the hide after Pete leaves for home and make myself comfortable. Great white egrets come into roost, seven of them but there is no sign of the reported glossy ibis.
Two dips of important birds, if I am going to get the 300 then I need birds of the quality of dusky warbler and glossy ibis. Not too disappointed, it just means I will have to bird the reserves again tomorrow instead of moving on.
The Green Year list now stands at 99.
26.60 miles 1045 feet elevation up 1473 feet elevation down